A first for TETRA helps aid efforts in Haiti

August 17th, 2010 – An innovative TETRA via satellite solution has been developed by TELTRONIC to allow Venezuelan aid teams to use their own TETRA radios in Port-au-Prince, Haiti following the massive earthquake of January 12, 2010

Haiti’s population of around 10 million is crowded into the western third of the island of Hispaniola. According to official statistics published before this year’s devastating earthquake, it was already the poorest nation in the Americas with one of the lowest life expectancy averages, suffering from chronic unemployment and severe deforestation, and requiring UN peacekeeping forces and substantial international aid.

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at just before 5 p.m. local time, the most powerful earthquake for 200 years struck Haiti, with an epicentre 25 kilometres to the west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. As many as 3 million people were affected by the natural disaster with some 100,000 – 230,000 fatalities (we will probably never know the exact figure), 300,000 injured and around 1 million homeless. There was an almost immediate international response to the catastrophe.

The Venezuelan government responded to the crisis on the morning immediately following the earthquake by sending its first aid-plane. Aid teams arrived in Port-au-Prince from Caracas consisting of doctors, engineers, search and rescue experts and Civil Protection. Almost no communications infrastructure remained operational following the disaster as international aid organisations scrambled to get communications in place. Venezuelan officials wondered if it would be possible in any way to use their existing TETRA solution sourced from TELTRONIC, via perhaps a satellite link.

Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) networks are private data satellite communications networks used for exchanging information. VSAT technology operates in several frequency bands, including the Ku-band (12-18 GHz) which is the most common. Networks are based on a geo-stationary satellite, low-cost terminals and small dish antennas which are normally around 1.3 metres in diameter. VSAT connections offer the public safety and emergencies sector the possibility of centralised management of communications in places such as Haiti where no terrestrial links exist.

However, the VSAT link introduces significant delays in communications between the Node and remote zones. TETRA system design must therefore take into account optimised bandwidth, an asynchronous connection between the Node and remote zone and the full implementation of the TETRA Layer 2 at the remote zone. Fortunately, TELTRONIC’s NEBULA (TETRA) solution deployed by the Venezuelan authorities already incorporates all of these features.

When implementing a TETRA via satellite solution, it is important to realise that communications will be less fluid, due to response times above 1 second for call set-up and PTT, even after network optimisation due to the laws of physics. Users need to adapt their usage habits, due to the effects of the delays, both regarding control signalling and voice communications. Timing mechanisms must be configured to allow transport delays in excess of 500 milliseconds and service quality must be introduced into the VSAT transport network to prioritise NEBULA voice communications traffic.

A solution was therefore developed by TELTRONIC to allow the Venezuelan aid team posted to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to use their own TETRA radios. A transportable base station was sent to Port-au-Prince and connected via satellite to the central node located in Caracas. Successful trials were conducted, with fluid communications taking place over the link by early February. This link has been maintained to allow aid workers to carry out their duties in the weeks and months following the disaster due to the long-term nature of the relief effort.

This valuable solution developed by TELTRONIC also sets a clear precedent for how critical communications could be delivered in future disasters across the globe.

For further information, please contact:Peter Clemons, Director of Communications, Teltronic S.A.U.:Tel. +34-976-465656Mobile:+44-7951-289934pclemons@teltronic.es

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